When the story came out earlier this week that a Geelong school had banned hugging, my husband posted it on my Facebook page.
“Our daughter would have been expelled if her school banned hugging,” he pointed out.
He wasn’t wrong. The kids at my daughter’s school hug a lot. It really surprised me when she started there, and I first saw her with her friends in the schoolyard. They would greet each other with a hug in the morning, and say goodbye with a hug in the afternoon. Not a quick one, either. A big, warm hug.
Now my son has started at the same school, and again, I’m noticing a lot of physical affection. I dropped him off the other morning and a little girl from his class grabbed his hand and ran off with him. I’ve seen some of his other friends, who are boys, also holding his hand or putting their arms around him.
Because my son and daughter go to a school where most of the kids are from non-English-speaking backgrounds, I feel like I’m watching an ad for world peace. Or for an expensive clothing company.
Honestly, it melts my heart.
"Honestly, it melts my heart." Image via istock
The story about the hugging ban at St Patrick's Primary School said students were being instructed in other ways to show affection, including "a particular knuckle handshake where they clunk knuckles".
"In this current day and age we are really conscious about protecting kids and teaching them from a young age that you have to be cautious,” school principal John Grant told the Herald Sun.
I couldn't agree more that kids need to be protected. But they don't need to be protected from friends' hugs. It's really important to teach them that some forms of touching are good, while others (obviously, an adult touching them on their genitals) are bad.
Hugs are special. Who hasn't been comforted by a friend's hug when feeling down? Who hasn't been able to let go of a lingering resentment when someone has offered to hug it out? Who hasn't longed for that moment when a partner or child returns from a trip, runs up, throws their arms around your neck and hugs you tight?
Substitute "knuckle clunk" for hug in any of those situations, and it's not exactly the same, is it?
There are scientific reasons why hugging is so good. When we hug someone, it releases oxytocin, which promotes social bonding. It also reduces the amount of the stress hormone cortisol being produced by our bodies. Hugging has also been proven to have physical health benefits, including lowering blood pressure.
Hugging is good. Science says so. Image via iStock.
Grant told the Herald Sun the school was trying to encourage everyone to respect personal space.
“It really comes back to not everyone is comfortable in being hugged," he said.
Sure, everyone is different, and everyone's personal limits should be respected. There are, no doubt, some kids out there who aren't comfortable with being hugged by their friends. But hugging shouldn't be seen as a bad thing in itself. We shouldn't be teaching kids to restrain themselves when they want to express normal, healthy affection. To me, that's a bad thing.
I think hugging at schools should be encouraged, not discouraged. More hugs, not less.
Since the hugging ban controversy blew up earlier this week, St Patrick's Primary School has claimed that it's a media beat-up. Grant has issued a statement saying there is no "blanket ban" on hugging.
"We are simply focused on teaching all students to respect their own and other people's personal space," he insists.
Well, I'm glad my kids go to a school where hugging is the norm. I hope they keep hugging their friends as they grow older. I want them to grow up to be adults who hug a lot.
Big hugs to you all. Or knuckle clunks, if you prefer.
Do your kids hug their friends at school?
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